Executed in 1948, this work is accompanied by a drawing.
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A11940.
Albert Rottenbourg, Rio de Janiero
Galerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris
Acquired directly from above by the present owner in 1994
"Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculpted or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion."
The artist cited in: 'Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps it in Motion', New York World-Telegram, 11th June, 1932
Projecting elegant metal tendrils gracefully punctuated by geometric and delicately branching armatures, Alexander's Calder's magnificent Untitled confers a stunning spatial equilibrium of seeming weightless sculptural forms. Articulated in a endlessly variable schema of elipses, circles and angular polygonal shapes of black yellow and red, Calder's instinctual mastery of formal balance and simultaneous invocation of perpetual lyrical movement here reaches an apogee of his 1940s production. What's more, accompanied by a drawing executed by Calder prior to the work's three-dimensional construction, the unique preservation of this extraordinary coupling marks an outstandingly rare opportunity to scrutinise the dialogue between Calder's invention and his final execution. Signed Le 2 October '48 this work on paper fosters a remarkable bipartite expression of the artist's working methods: Calder's sinuous drawing almost exactly mirrors the finished article. Indeed, the magnificent conviction of Calder's artistic vision and mastery of his materials had reached a height by the late 1940s; with assured confidence of artistic direction and command of his abstract sculptural vocabulary, the exquisite Untitled, as reinforced by the fascinating preparatory sketch, stands among the earliest examples of the commanding sculptural lyricism and poetic style inimitable to Calder's fully-evolved production.
Alexander Calder began making mobiles as a young artist in Paris in the early 1930s when attempting to find a suitable model to translate the Modernists' paintings of abstract for into three-dimensional space. The immediate and decisive event that transformed Calder from the renowned creator of his wire Cirque Calder to a master of abstraction was his famous visit to Piet Mondrian's studio in October 1930. Calder observed that Mondrian's strict neo-plastic principles were projected from his paintings onto the overall environment of the studio. His surroundings were rendered in the basic components of his painterly theory from the reductive palette to purist colours, such as red, to the one white wall containing geometric paper rectangles that could be moved into various compositions. Shortly following this cathartic encounter, Calder asked: "Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculpted or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion" (the artist in: 'Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps it in Motion', New York World-Telegram, 11 June, 1932). Calder intuitively sensed the creative possibilities of applying geometric and biomorphic abstraction to spatial constructions, and this epiphany was the catalyst for his inventions of the new sculptural types: stabiles, mobiles and the hybrid standing mobiles.
When World War II broke out Calder returned to New York from his European sojourn in Paris; although intensely involved in the New York art scene from the late 1930s through to the early 1950s, his work was ostensibly disaligned with the introspective anguish and emotional turmoil evinced by the contemporaneous New York School. While some of Calder's sculptures engaged themes of the cosmos and the infinite, overall his work retained an exuberant agility that continued as a hallmark through the rest of his career.
In 1946, for an exhibition of Calder's work held at Galerie Louis Carré, Jean Paul Satre described the amazing potency of the artist's work: "Sculpture suggests movement, painting suggests depth or light. A 'mobile' does not 'sugest' anything; it captures genuine livings movements and shapes them. 'Mobiles' have no meaning, makes you think of nothing but themselves. They are, that is all; they are absolutes" (Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Alexander Calder, 1946). Despite Satre's existentialist view of Calder's work as devoid of any relative content, Calder himself acknowledged influences from the natural world. Leaves, branches flowers and animals serve as inspiration for Calder's abstract yet organic forms, and appear in many of the titles for the sculptures. With the present work, the geometry of circles and polygonal shapes aligned in planar movement evokes the orbiting dimensions of the cosmos, while the diminishing armatures suggest such natural phenomena as the fractal sequences innate to the branching of trees or blood vessels.
These qualities exquisitely portrayed in the present work also speak to an affinity between Calder and his life-long friend Joan Miró, whom he met in Paris in 1928. Both artists shared the ambition to create a new understanding of art based on a focused engagement with colour, line and form to explore spatial composition. Observers have long recognised the similarities and resonance between Calder's greatest sculptural achievements and Miró's painterly inventions in his series of Constellations, a title shared by several of Calder's greatest wood wall sculptures of the 1940s. In viewing Miró's The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers (1941, The Museum of Modern Art, New York), one can almost imagine the individual black and red elements of the present work melded into Miró's evocative array of surrealist and anthropomorphic shapes. In studying the contrast between the two works, one can appreciate the radical nature of the contraptual, elegant, dancing and swirling geometric yet gracefully arcing forms inherent to this magnificent mobile.
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